Advanced systems, like AI, and enhanced presentation through VR and AR options, offer exciting potential to ultimately optimise the customer experience with immersive, emotive technology while collecting precise data to perfect their offerings.

Tech giants such as Apple, Google, Adobe, Facebook and Microsoft have all demonstrated their commitment to the next level systems by investing heavily in new frameworks, APIs and prototypes that utilise this technology. Google, for example, has begun uniting some of their advertising strategies in the form of a VR cube. Apple, meanwhile, have developed a ground-breaking new AR framework, called ARkit, which has expanded the accessible uses of AR technology to the everyday consumer.

These tech behemoths are serious about combining their markets with AI systems, and as these technologies become more ubiquitous in the advertising space, our marketing will need to adapt.

So, you are probably thinking what does this mean for me? Well, I am about to tell you now.

VR and Marketing
Virtual Reality creates simulated, three-dimensional worlds, offering an entirely immersive experience. That capacity means VR is a great tool for advertising – imagine car commercials that can take you on a virtual test drive of a car you are interested in or a commercial for a football product that can drop you at Wembley Stadium.

VR technology can provide an emotive experience, as well as an immersive one – and getting customers to connect with a product through a positive emotional experience is proven to have a direct impact on sales.

However, advertising within VR is not without its challenges. Primarily, companies need to figure out how to reach audiences with their ad content. VR environments facilitate a fictional world where viewers are able to escape. That said, it’s not an environment where users are likely to enter with a buyer’s intent for items they may need in their day to day lives, not yet anyway.

To ensure effectiveness, VR ads will require unique targeting to a user’s interests. Social networks, like Facebook, have proven that heavily targeted ads are successful on platforms where visitors don’t come with buyer’s intent. If brands want a nonintrusive way to reach customers in the VR space, they’re going to need a creative, individualised targeting method.

Google’s testing lab, Area 120, has been experimenting with a VR ad cube, a levitating branded box that opens once a user is facing the box whilst wearing a VR headset. Upon facing the cube, a sponsored video plays instantly. To close the ad, the user must manually select “Close Ad”
Currently, this is an MVP version, but Google’s focus and investment on re-strategizing their advertising options with VR technology is a testament to how much interest there is in AI systems.

Marketing with AR
Augmented Reality, on the other hand, enhances a user’s existing reality by layering computer generated images over a person’s current view of his or her environment. These computer-generated images can be three-dimensional simulations which interact with physical objects in the space of the user’s environment.

Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Apple, have all experimented with AR prototypes, from AR camera filters created by Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, to interactive mobile games.

Recently, some new uses of AR technology have been introduced, most notably via the introduction of Apple’s ARkit.

At the recent WWDC 17 event, Apple introduced new APIs which will invite more AR app developers to collaborate with the App Store. The ARkit, Apple’s newest mobile framework for AR, has been reported as the largest AR platform in the world.

ARkit consists of multiple different layers of AR technology: world tracking, scene understanding and light estimation.

This new framework is opening up many new possibilities for AR technology – for example, IKEA's mobile app uses AR technology to place pieces from their catalogue in a customer’s environment. By simply placing the IKEA catalogue somewhere in the room and aiming a smartphone camera at it, the app will accurately grab the dimensions of the space and place a lounge chair, desk, table, or any piece of furniture that is true to size. Now, potential IKEA shoppers can see exactly how a piece of furniture will look in their home or office before purchasing it.

AR systems can not only help brands to sell, but they can also help capitalise on buyers intent, and even create new opportunities to market to consumers. Tech experts predict that as soon as AR wearables become mainstream, wearers will be able to access information about their surrounding environment all the time, anytime. Walking past a person with a flashy coat and wondering where they bought it will soon be a thing of the past, your smart wristwatch will use AR and computer vision technology to identify the coat and pull up all of its details, like the brand, the price, and even the stock availability.

How can we prepare?
So, how can we get ready for the tsunami of AR and VR technology that is about to rip through all of our social media planning?

360-Degree Video
Making a professional 360-degree video can be achieved by most users today, with a wide variety of apps and smartphone accessories available. Marketers can create this content without investing in a film crew – the advantage of the 360-degree format is the immersive VR experience that it can offer viewers on platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, which both support the 360-degree format.

Offering VR like experiences in this simple way initiates the audience to the use of VR technology in association with the company, and the rate of audience engagement will likely increase because 360 is becoming increasingly popular in the video world.

According to Magnifyre, 29% more people would view a 360-degree video over the same video in a traditional format. With 360-degree video, marketers can reap the benefits of practising and refining campaign strategies that include interactive content.

Virtual Live Events
The live aspect of live streaming business events – like webinars and conferences – gives people a greater incentive to view the event as it occurs. As marketers know, live content increases engagement by drawing in communities of viewers that will interact with one another and the brand in the comments section.

Reportedly, Facebook users spend 3x more time watching live videos than they do traditional videos. The benefits of this are that live content sharing can help prepare marketers for their optimised interactions they will have with customers once AI systems are in place. AI systems will make the turnaround time for communication immediate, and marketers will need to get used to producing content at a faster pace.

Integrate Data
Finally, without excellent data quality, companies can’t even begin to build successful machine learning models to optimise their processes. AI systems are increasingly going to curate the brand experience for the target customer, and to do that a company’s data needs to be unified first.

Current systems aren’t equipped with enough solid data to personalise each user experience in each channel, and it will be impossible to have seamless interactions with customers across all channels without a unified understanding of a brand’s various buyer personas.

Instead, marketers should practise working in groups, with experts from each area, and collaborate within these groups through all stages of the buyer journey. This restructuring shifts the team focus from channel optimisation to customer optimisation, resulting in an exceptional customer experience that will be a conducive environment to implement more advanced systems in the near future.

These advanced technologies are going to revolutionise the business consumer dynamic, with a more individualised, optimised experience. As these systems progress out of their infancy today, marketers are left with a generous amount of time to prepare themselves.

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